Rosalie Ritz, a premier courtroom artist who for four decades chronicled dozens of high-drama trials, including those of Charles Manson, Patty Hearst and O.J. Simpson, has died. She was 84.
She died at her home in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Friday night after a two-year battle with lung cancer, her daughter Sandy Ritz told the Associated Press.
Ritz's work was seen on network television and on AP wires beginning with the infamous Army-McCarthy hearings in the 1950s. Soon after, she began drawing in courtrooms. Her trial illustrations are in a special collection at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.
With a background as a fine artist, Ritz drew with a flourish that set her apart from her colleagues. Her work sought to capture the action and drama of trials.
Sometimes she went beyond the courtroom. In 1967, she sketched Black Panther leader Huey Newton in his jail cell while he was facing trial for murder. She worked at several Black Panther trials and a Hells Angels trial.
"I was scared a lot of the time," she would say later. She was once pepper-sprayed while drawing a Vietnam War protest outside a courthouse.
An accomplished artist while still in her teens, Ritz began sketching live events when she was living in Washington, D.C., and got into a closed session of the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings. A CBS-TV producer offered to buy her sketches, and they were shown on Edward R. Murrow's news program.
Soon her services were in demand. When she moved with her family to California in 1966, she became a freelance sketch artist with KPIX, a San Francisco CBS affiliate, and the AP, among others.
Ritz produced as many as 18 to 21 drawings a day during high-profile trials.
The AP brought her to Los Angeles for the trial of Robert F. Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, in 1968, and she returned to the city for other trials. In 1996, the AP coaxed her out of retirement to draw the civil trial of O.J. Simpson, her last assignment.
Ritz was a wife and mother of four, a tournament-winning golfer and a social activist who took a slum building in Oakland and turned it into studios and galleries for struggling artists.
She was born Rosalie Jane Mislove in Milwaukee on Aug. 6, 1923, the seventh of 10 children. At age 14 she attended the Layton School of Art. She later studied at Marquette University and the Milwaukee and Chicago art institutes. By 16 she was earning money doing portraits at circuses and fairs.
In 1946 she married Erwin Ritz, an accountant and athlete, and they moved to Washington, D.C. He died last year.
Survivors include daughters Sandy Ritz of Honolulu, Barbara Bray of Oakland, Terry Leach of Orinda and Janet Ritz of Studio City, five grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.